This column was originally posted last Christmas.
A Christmas Carol is one of my favourite redemption stories. Charles Dickens introduces Ebenezer Scrooge as a wealthy but miserly man whose quest to save money hurts himself and others around him. In the end, he is a changed man. Scrooge gets a bad reputation because we tend tend to focus on who he was before his transformation rather than after. I want to be more like Scrooge after he changed his ways.
3 Ways to be more like Scrooge
It wasn’t until Scrooge looked back on his life; the mistakes, the regrets and the opportunities missed could he truly understand who he was. When he took some time to reflect back, he realized he wasn’t the person he wanted to be.
There was a time when I was too careful with my money. We allowed no margin for enjoyment. It wasn’t until I reflected on my life and realized I wasn’t the person I wanted to be that I was able to create more financial balance in my life. For me that meant saving for the future as well as spending money now in ways that aligned with my values.
Generosity is the best antidote to selfishness and a miserly attitude. Scrooge made the decision to change but it was only when he gave that his attitude changed.
When we’re under financial stress our deepest desire is to hold on tighter to everything we’ve got. Yet, when we make the conscious choice to give some of it away, it’s incredibly freeing. It’s counter intuitive but it works. The next time you’re feeling miserly, give to someone in need or to your favourite charity and watch how it changes your thinking.
Scrooge realized through his ghostly journeys that he had a family who loved him, a hardworking loyal employee in Bob Crachit and good health. He also saw that despite Tiny Tim’s illness, Bob Crachit appreciated everything he had, even his miserly employer.
On days when your feeling particularly miserable about finances, take the time to think about everything for which you’re grateful. It is no surprise that ‘miserly’ and ‘miserable’ have the same etymological root. Too often we can focus on what we don’t have rather than appreciating everything we do have.
Wouldn’t we all like the opportunity to project ourselves into the future and see the possible outcome? I’ve often though it would be rather convenient to know the exact date of my death. It would make retirement planning a whole lot easier if I knew exactly how many years my savings needed to last. If I had the opportunity to stand at my grave and watch the mourners around me, I wonder if there is something I’d want to change now.
More than 150 years after A Christmas Carol was written, its themes are still relevant. It doesn’t have to take a midnight haunting to change the way you live. It’s possible to change now. If you don’t like your miserable miserly ways, try being more like Scrooge by reflecting, giving and valuing what you already have.
Kathryn works in public relations and training for a non profit. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Her passions include personal finance and adult education. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.